It is the division of society into property owners and propertyless people which lies at the root of the crisis of the capitalist world. One of the fundamental. truths which a study of socialism teaches, and it is a basic principle, is the existence of the class struggle. This class struggle is based upon the antagonism of interests between the propertyless working class, who are forced to sell their energy in order to live, and the property-owning master class.
Millions of workers extract raw material from the earth. They own neither the land nor the machinery they use, nor the products they raise. Millions of other workers manufacture the raw materials into finished products. They own neither the machinery they use nor the products they manufacture. These are the property of the capitalists and the landlords. The vast majority of people in society to-day are thus at the mercy of the private owners. They cannot organise the distribution of the wealth which they and their comrades have co-operated to produce, because they do not possess this wealth. It is the property of the private owners.
Here is to be found the fundamental reason why the socially necessary goods are obtainable only in the market-place as commodities. The private property owners have no other means for the disposal of the goods others have made for them. They cannot give the goods to society, for that would be an abandonment of the right of private property to extract profit. They cannot distribute the goods according to the needs of the people, however vast and urgent those needs may be, because private property production is governed by the law of production for profit irrespective of the needs of the people. The criterion of all capitalist enterprise is—does it make a profit? When it ceases to make a profit it goes bankrupt—it is finished and the workers are cast on to the scrapheap of unemployment. Capitalism is one big gamble. Since its fortunes hang on the tail of its unpredictable market, it can never be sure of what to do to secure its own interests. The great tragedy is that the gambles are always paid off in working class lives and their insecurity.
Moreover, when coupled with a weakening of movements to counter the generated power of capitalists, the result has been a startling increase in the influence of predatory capitalism, along with inequities in wealth, income, power, and opportunity. Such power breeds anti-democratic tendencies.